Running is great for our health and many of us love to get our mornings started by going for a brisk and cathartic routinely run. Other than the obvious physical health benefits of running such as weight management and stamina building, there are also many mental health benefits to running. Runners often report feeling mentally clearer after their run, feeling energised for their following activities and tasks, and feeling more in tune with their own bodies.
However, despite there being so many positives to running – there is also a down side of running which is commonly experienced, and that is pain. Running can often lead to aches and pains due to the repetitive nature of the motion. In this article, I’m going to take you through the most common types of runner associated pain and how to either heal from these pains or avoid them altogether!
Knee pain is the number 1, most common pain associated with running and that’s how it earned its title as runners’ knee! Formally known as Patellar tendonitis, is essentially swelling in the tendon, either above or below the kneecap, though most experience swelling and pain below.
To avoid runners’ knee, you must first avoid running too much, too soon. If there’s not enough endurance in the tissues, you’re more than likely going to experience joint pain. Sometimes as a runner, you may not be doing enough strength training too, making it more likely for you to experience runner’s knee. Be sure to hit the gym at least twice per week, to strengthen quads, hamstrings and calf muscles. It’s also important to run with proper form. If you’re not soft or agile on the ground, that also leads to inflammation through the impact of each step. Because of this, it is important to wear proper running trainers, as they’re usually equipped with some kind of shock absorption materials which can help.
If you’re already experiencing runners’ knee, you should aim to pause your running for up to two weeks. That will change the amount of impact you’re putting on your joint by taking this break.
Plantar Fasciitis is also fairly common in runners and it is basically an overloading of the tissue at the bottom of your foot. Poor form and balance can cause this. If you can’t balance very well on one leg, for example, you are relying heavily on the other leg and it is carrying most of your weight. Because of this the tissues have to work extra hard to keep you from falling over while running.
To avoid suffering with Plantar Fasciitis add balance moves to your strength routine. Integrate single-leg exercises, like one-legged deadlifts, or practice balancing on one foot to improve your balance and take the pressure off of one of your feet.
If you are already suffering with this, first, reduce your running volume, and heat and ice as needed to help with pain. We recommend rolling a ball under your foot to boost circulation and speed healing. Ankle stretches and building calf endurance through calf raises can also help reduce stress and excess pressure on the area.
Most people feel these on the outside of the shin, which is the tibialis anterior muscle, it can sometimes get inflamed from being overloaded or simply overlooked. This is a case when it’s especially important to visit your doctor to rule out a stress fracture.
There’s often not one definitive cause, but running with proper form and cadence can help keep shin splints away. You can also improve your balance to reduce load on the muscle, by performing single-leg exercises in the gym, and boost muscular endurance by tapping your toes similar to that of Plantar Fasciitis.
To ease the pain of shin splints you should stretch the muscle between runs. Practice pulling the toes away from your body. It’s also good to foam-roll the muscle, to bring blood flow to the area. You can still run with shin splints — depending on the severity of your pain. It’s still a good idea to play with your mileage to find what works. If you’re limping, it’s best to slow down to a walk until you’re feeling better.
IT Band Syndrome
We see a lot of runners in our clinic who suffer from IT Band Syndrome. Much like other running injuries, this one relates to overuse and resulting inflammation. It usually presents as a hip or knee issue — perhaps an ankle isn’t mobile enough, so the knee turns inward. Often the vastus lateralis muscle (which runs along the side of the thigh and is the largest of the quadricep group) fires extra hard to stabilize the knee and becomes overworked. It can feel like it’s always tense.
There can be multiple causes, so your best bet is to avoid it is to ensure all of your joints are mobile and working properly. We recommend incorporating balance exercises and minding your form as you run.
If you think you may be suffering from this, we recommend you come and see us to determine what’s causing your IT Band pain.
Runners often experience hip pain simply from muscles feeling tight, and the hips can especially feel the effects of repetitive motion. The problem can also be an impingement (from too-tight muscles) or, often, bursitis — which is swelling of a bursa: a fluid-filled sac designed to decrease friction in the joint.
Strength training can really help protect your hips so to avoid hip pain while running, we recommend hitting the gym three times/week if you’ve ever had hip pain and performing moves like hip thrusters, lunges (with a longer stride, to focus on hips) and isometric holds that allow you to build muscular endurance.
If you’re already suffering with hip pain, you’ll first need to pinpoint the cause of your pain to determine treatment. Usually, you’ll need some time to rest and then modify your training. You may need to alter your running technique or adjust your volume.
You may also benefit from dry needling, depending on the nature of your injury, which can calm the surrounding area so as not to cause further irritation to the joint. We offer this service in our clinic.
If you’re a runner and want to avoid these conditions, or you believe you may already be suffering with one, why not book a FREE 15-minute discovery visit? In this complimentary visit you will have a chance to speak to a physio about your needs/and or condition and they will let you know if physio is right for you.
To book an appointment or a discovery visit, call us on: 0207 636 8845